Black Bear "couple" tagged - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Black Bear "couple" tagged

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By David Kenney - bio | email

ISSAQUENA COUNTY, MS (WLBT) - The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, along with biologists from Mississippi State, are working on a new project to track the state's black bear population.

Their numbers were greatly diminished at the turn of the century, due to over hunting and land clearing. Last week, they received encouraging data, to support the bear numbers are back on the rise.

The group studying Mississippi's black bear population was tracking bears using GPS collars near Valley Park in Issaquena County last week, when they spotted a female.

"When we arrived to find her there in the trap we found he was there with her obviously kind of standing ground over her claiming his spot" says Brad Young.

Young is the Black Bear Program leader for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. 

The female bear was subdued with a tranqualizer dart, while her male counterpart looked on.

"They were definitely a couple, thats the first time we've ever come across it in a real time situation" says Young.

Once the female was down, biologists were able to get the male, and went in for a closer look.

"He was a large male, 386 pounds which isn't abnormal by any stretch but none the less a very big bear" Young adds. 

Turns out the male was already being tracked but the batteries in his collar were low. Researchers were able to place a new collar on him.

They say finding the two bears together is reassuring data that efforts to track and manage their populations, is working, and encouraging more bears to mate.

"Black bears are listed as endangered throughout Mississippi. Now here in the last five years or so we've seen a natural reproduction. Females (are) entering our state from adjacent states so our population is definitely increasing" says Young.

The bears GPS collars will send researchers information right to their computers, allowing them to track their daily movements.

It's all part of providing the bears with the right environment, assisting them, as they work to bring their numbers back up.

"As the population continues to grow, we as biologist and wildlife managers need to know as much as we can about them in order to effectively manage them as the numbers continue to increase" Young adds. 

Researchers plan to visit the female bear in her den this winter, to see how many cubs she has with her.

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